Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Calaveras - Mt. Hamilton Whupfest

Lee and I met up with Veronica and Thom in Sunol around 7 am on Saturday to ride over Calaveras, up Mt. Hamilton, and back.

I've learned over and over again that I really need about 10 miles of riding to warm up. It's the way I am. So I kept falling back behind the others along the rollery part of Calaveras. Eh.

Lee planned on riding with us a bit and then going off on his own. So as we passed Welch Creek Road, Lee decided to give that uber-stinker road a go. He made it up well into the 17% section before he decided that was enough fun and turned around, possibly about a mile before the top. Go Lee!

Meanwhile V, Thom & I reached the beginning of the climb up Calaveras, and I started my lap timer at the Geary Road sign. It was only about 5 miles from the start of the ride and I was still creakin' a bit. Usually when I do this ride I start from home, which is 15 flat miles to Sunol, a very nice warm up, so I generally have 20 miles in me when I start up Calaveras. I made it to the little KOM sign at the false summit in exactly 17 minutes, just a wee less than my current best of 16 min 40 sec. I'd really like to break 15 minutes soon.

Calaveras Road was chip-sealed a few weeks ago from the Santa Clara Co. border southward, and there was still a bit of gravel on the road. Not too bad, though, although I had to take the corners more cautiously than I ordinarily would. But I heard there were a couple of accidents amoung the TnT group that went through there a bit after us.

We continued down the Wall, hung a right and zoomed down Calaveras Road past Ed Levin park and took a left onto Piedmont Rd. for a nice flat cruise towards Alum Rock Park. We stopped at the 7-Eleven to top off our water bottles and Thom wolfed down a hotdog much to V's disgust. :D

We then went into Alum Rock Park and used the restrooms there, then went up Alum Rock Road where it's closed to traffic and emerged from the park still on Alum Rock Rd. (I think cutting through Alum Rock Park is a really nice way to approach Mt. Hamilton, you have the restrooms and you avoid the urban sprawl of Toyon and McGee roads which is the DMD route.)

After a nice smooth descent on Alum Road Road from the park (the other reason why I like this approach!) we turned left and began climbing up Mt. Hamilton Road. I wasn’t feeling great so I told V and Thom to just bomb on ahead and I’d meet them at Grant Ranch Park. I think I might not have eaten enough so I had a mini payday bar partway up (along with the Spiz and Hamer gel) and that seemed to help.

V and Thom were actually waiting for me at the start of the descent into Grant Ranch - V quipped “we didn’t want to have to climb out of Grant Ranch if we had to check up on you” - good point! - so we did the nice descent into Grant Ranch all together. We stopped off at the trailhead to use the porta-potty and refill bottles, then headed onward and upward. I was feeling better but still climbing slowly, so V and Thom left me in the dust soon again. I came upon them as they were waiting along the side of the road, Thom decided he had enough and was saying his goodbyes before turning around and heading back to Sunol.

So then there were the two of us. It was pretty uneventful for me the rest of the way up, V disappeared soon enough again but once we were in the final portion of the climb I spotted her from time to time on the switchbacks heading towards the observatory. Oh geeze, I was whupped those last two or three miles! I’m pretty sure I was eating and drinking enough, I was just tired. I had a brief stop about 2 miles from the top and that helped a bit. At least it was pretty up there, and while it was warming up it didn’t get oppressively hot.

I was soooo glad to finally reach the summit. V claims she was waiting for only about 10 minutes but I suspect it was more than that. :p We had a nice break and V shared half her turkey sandwich with me which was very tasty. She was very pleased with how good she felt. I just whimpered. :p

Then we headed back down. I seem to be descending a bit more tentatively than I used to, not sure why, but I was still tired from the climb so I didn’t want to take any chances.

We reached the bottom of the mountain and followed the DMD route thru the afforementioned stripmall spawl of McGee and Toyon roads (mainly because they were downhill) and cruised along Piedmont Road. We passed the turn for Sierra Road and V quipped that she felt so good she almost considered going up it. I just whimpered. :p

Then the fun began again. We reached Calaveras Road and turned right for the long, semi-steep slog leading up to the Wall. As I approached Ed Levin Park at about the 68 mile point, like a mirage in the distance there was Thom in their car, bringing us lovely cold bottled water.

I was gazing longingly at the empty spot on their bike rack, and whimpered pathetically to Thom asking if he wouldn’t mind giving me a ride the rest of the way to Sunol.

V just looked at me and asked "do you REALLY want to quit now???".

Errr. OK, the rest of the way up to the Wall would be a drag, the Wall would hurt, but then it would be over, and then it would be just a few rollers to the end.

"OK, OK, I'll keep riding, dammit."

Gawd I was pathetic going up that wall. Forward momentum was maintained, just. The lowest speed my computer registers is 2.4 mph. I may have gone under that, good grief.

V's a very smart girl. She waited for me waaay past the crest of the wall, at a point after a little downhill, so I didn't hate her quite so much by the time I reached her. :p

The rest of the ride was fine. I had a tiny skid going around one of the corners on the freshly chipsealed section of Calaveras but that was due to my own inattention (meaning, I fried and my coordination was a bit off). My lower back was starting to ache a bit and it actually started to feel worse during the final descent, but once we reached the bottom and the rollery section towards Sunol it felt a bit better.

We had told Thom back at Levin Park that we’d reach Sunol by 4 pm and we rolled in at 3:58. Thom and Lee were waiting patiently for us back at the school, and Thom quipped that we got in under the cutoff. Wizeazz. :D

Despite all the whimpering and whining, it was a really great ride!

We all headed off to Bosco’s for our after-ride feast. Very soon I had a pint of Sierra Nevada in front of me and all was quite well with my world.

Total climb was 7700 feet or so, a new max for me. So I guess I was entitled to feel whupped. :D

Friday, August 24, 2007

Re-evaluating my goals

It's two months before the Solvang Fall Double, and I've come to the conclusion I won't be ready for a double century by then. At least my head won't be ready for it. Yes, I likey could "survive" it, and maybe even finish within the cutoff, but I'm not one of those people that handle pain and discomfort well. I want to enjoy the ride, not suffer through it!

Basically, I need a few more hilly centuries & double metrics under my belt to build up my confidence before I tackle a DC. That's the way I operate.

I'll still be doing my own long & hilly rides, and I'll be joining the ACTC's LDTR/UTD/whatever-they-call-them rides. I'll be plenty ready for the Solvang Spring double come the end of March.

And, starting next month, I'll be doing the local 200K+ permaments and working towards a RUSA R-12 award.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Holstein 100

I rode this with Ellen, her roomie Amie, and Amie's friend John. It was the first century for all three of them. They were such fun company! This was a challenging ride, made more so by the wicked afternoon head & side winds we encountered for the last 25 miles or so.

Kim and Leslie rode the metric with Lee, and they all finished early in the afternoon. Kim & Leslie hung out with Lee and waited for us to finish - and they had a LONG wait. That was so incredibly sweet of them to wait for us!

My computer showed about 6500 ft of climbing (the last climb into a wicked headwind, I might add!) Ellen's Edge showed about 8000-something feet so we figured it was on the order of 7000 :^)

We slowed down & stopped a lot, and the winds really took their toll in the last couple of hours.

I'm going to have to step up the training a lot for Solvang, yikes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lollygagging up Palomares

I took the morning off yesterday to ride up Palomares. It was really nice out and I was feeling kind of lazy so I decided to enjoy the scenery and not push myself very hard. I still timed myself from the no shooting sign to the top as I normally do, to get a feel for what my relaxed pace is nowadays. I climbed at a pace where I wasn't breathing hard (I don't have a HRM) and I wasn't winded at all when I reached the top. Come to find out it took me 35 minutes. That was my personal best only a couple of months ago! So I'm really pleased that my "lollygagging" pace is one that was pretty challenging for me such a short time ago.

My current best is around 31 minutes. I hope to break 30 soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tour de Max

I rode the Tour de Max on Sunday with some folks from bikeforums.

We started from Menlo Park, up Sand Hill to Portola Road (where the group promptly dropped me), down Alpine and over Arastradero. I take a long time to warm up so I figured it was no use trying to keep up with them this early on.

There was a rest stop on Arastradero but by then I was finally warmed up and feeling human so I didn't bother to stop. Then up Page Mill, oy. I stopped at the rest stop on top of Page Mill and the rest of the group joined up with me about then - come to find out they had stopped at Arastradero :D

The descent down Alpine West was a bit dicey with the gravel still on the road from the recent chipsealing. Past the chipsealed part the road was narrow, extremely bumpy and very windey with lots of steep sharp turns, which made it not particularly fun. It was pretty exhausing and I was looking forward to that descent being over, which says a lot.

A bunch of us climbed together up Haskins Hill on Pescadero Road which was nice. I really enjoyed the descent down Pescadero Road until I got stuck behind a car with a *very* timid driver who rode his/her brakes for almost the entire way down the rest of the hill, and there was no way I could pass. How *dare* that rotten person deprive me of my well-earned descent! grrrr.

Stage Road was nice but a bit windy. The view of the cliffs as we descended Highway 1 to Tunitas Creek was spectacular today. We were all spread out by the time we reached Highway 1 so I assumed I wouldn't see any of our group again until I reached the finish.

Let me just say here and now that the climb up Tunitas Creek Road *sucks*. The road surface is the worst and the middle part of the climb where it kicks up to 10% is a bear. Now, that said, its nice & shady almost all the way up and you have the lovely sound of Tunitas Creek to serenade you if you can hear it over your rasping breathing. (At least I didn't need to walk up this stinker, unlike the last time I rode up it 2 years ago on that epic Labor Day weekend ride with Veronica & Thom where my legs basically gave up the ghost.) I did end up stopping for a couple of minutes for a breather after most of the steep section was past, which helped a lot. Soon after I started up again I encountered Ron from the bf group, who had stopped for a much longer breather, which is how I managed to catch up with him. Soon after that we reached the mini-rest stop near the top where we each had a can of Coke which really hit the spot.

A guy pulled up during that time and complimented me on my Brooks saddle and my Randonnuers of China jersey. He was wearing a PBP 2003 jersey, and we struck up a conversation about randonneuring. Come to find out he was Ken Shoemaker, a frequent poster on the Randon list. He's leaving for France this Thursday for this year's PBP.

At this point Ron & I were on the much shallower grade a couple of miles from the top so the rest of Tunitas went by quickly, and then we were treated to the lovely descent down Kings Mtn into Woodside and the shorter but still lovely descent down 84 to Redwood City, where we hung a right on Alameda de las Pulgas and powered it (be that as it may) back to the school in Menlo Park.

It was good ride, tough but somehow not as draining and the Mt. Tam ride last week, although it had a bit more climbing overall. A new pb for climbing, woo woo.

I might do this route starting from home next time which would add on about 30 miles or so. But instead of the Alpine Road descent I'd head north on Skyline to 84, then west down 84 past La Honda, then hang a left onto Pescadero Road.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mt. Tam (almost) century

The Marin 200K was to be an 'intermediate' goal leading up to Solvang. I ended up doing the Mt. Tam century instead, which was listed as 94 miles with about 7800 ft of climbing.

I rode with Kim, who was insisting beforehand that I'd gotten so strong that I would leave her in the dust. Kim is such a hoot. She's a strong climber and I was hoping at best I would be able to keep up with her on the climbs. Well, turns out, notsomuch. But at least she didn't have to wait as long for me as she used to.

I've never ridden up Mt. Tam before, so I didn't know what to expect. Sometimes that's good. I was told it would be beautiful up there, and it was. The climb up Fairfax-Bolinas was nice and shady for the most part, and the Alpine Dam area was lovely. On the way up I happened to meet one of the organizers for this years Waves to Wine MS ride, a guy named Dan, so Kim & I had a nice chat with him about the upcoming ride. Sounds like the celebration at Sonoma Mountain Village is going to be fun. Must remember aspirin.

Kim left me in the dust and soon so did Dan and his companion (whose name I have forgotten). I'm so used to climbing alone that it's no big deal. But I reached Ridgecrest Road and I thought, oh crud, long rollers for as far as I could see. Ridgecrest, as the name implies, goes around near the top of Tam. What I mistook for rollers were in fact a series of climbs called the Seven Bitches (or the Seven Sisters in polite company). Not knowing that these were not mere rollers, I started getting really down on myself when I couldn't get any momentum and power up the inclines like I normally would. Looking at the elevation profile afterwards I could see why I was having such a tough time. But at the time, I started up on my "who am I kidding" mantra not too far along Ridgecrest.

We were well above the fog line out in the sun, and it was freakin' hot up there. But the scenery was lovely. When I finally reached the intersection of Ridgecrest and Pan Toll (where Kim was waiting patiently, working on her suntan), we still had about 3 miles to go to the summit of Tam. It was an up and back, and after about 30 milliseconds of debate I wussed out on it (to be fair, Kim would have done it if I wanted to - but my tenacity leaves something to be desired) and we hung a right to begin our descent down PanToll and Panoramic Hiway.

Heading down Panoramic we rode into the fog, and in the space of about a half mile it went from sunny & freakin' hot to damp & cold with a nearly 40 degree temperature drop, so we soon had our armwarmers and vests back on. We rode past the entrance to Muir Woods, which can be a bit dicey with all the cars parked along the road and pedestrians wandering about and the @#$% tour busses passing within inches on the narrow windey shoulderless road (can you tell I really loved that part).

We finally reached Highway 1 which alas wasn't all that much better, it was still narrow and windey and relatively shoulderless with lots of cars and a slog of a climb after Muir Beach to boot. I was well into my "who am I kidding mode" by then, and whenever I caught up to Kim (who by now was waiting for me at the top of every little anthill roller, it seemed), in betwixt general purpose whining I was informing her and anyone else within earshot that no way in creation was I attempting a freakin' double century in this lifetime.

But by the time we passed Stinson Beach the traffic volume went down considerably, the road widened, the fog had lifted by then and it was nice & sunny but the temperature remained pleasant, and all was well with our world. Just past Pt. Reyes we headed inland on Pt. Reyes - Petaluma Rd. and hung a right past the Nicasio Revervior. Almost done, yaaay! My lower back was tightening up so I took a couple of vitamin I's and by the time we reached the final rest stop in Nicasio it was much better.

It started getting really hot again as we went inland so we had some nice cold Cokes at the final rest stop at the Nicasio School. This rest stop was common to the final leg of all the rides so it was fun to chat with people - and everyone was glad that they were almost done! We met up with MP and her friend Sky at that rest stop and she gave me some words of encouragement which helped a bit, but I still wanted this ride to be O-VER. I met Jim (cyclofiend) at this rest stop, he was hard to miss with his Rivendell wool jersey and his lovely burnt-orange Quickbeam. (He rode the Marin Century route on a single-speed wearing a wool jersey. In the heat. It's so reassuring to know there are many people out there much crazier than I.)

Lucas Valley Road was hot as well but at least we were in the shade a lot, and Kim was joining in on the whining by now and misery really loves company so I was plenty fine with that. Once we got over the final (thank gawd, short) climb in the baking sun we had the nice long descent to the finish.

At the finish I made a beeline to the ice cream freezer and wolfed down a Haagen-Dasz ice cream bar as we waited in line for the real food. You know that saying, life is uncertain, eat dessert first!

We rode about 88 miles of the 94 mile route (since we wussed out on the 3 mile up & back to the summit of Tam) and my Ciclosport showed about 6300 feet of climbing. Compared to others' computers my Ciclosport seems to underestimate climbing but, whatever. I've seen someone else's report in which they recorded about 7200 feet of climbing for the same route (that is, w/o the Tam summit) using an Edge 305 GPS.

Eh, it's all relative. Looking back at my old journal entires this seems to be the most climbing I've done on a single ride. That'll change soon.

There was a nice email from MP waiting for me when I got home. She told to give it a few days before deciding on Solvang. Well, after sleeping on it, I'm pretty pleased with the ride all in all. I obviously have to get stronger at climbing - and not give up so easily !!! - but that'll come.